Duterte wants new Misuari ‘deal’ crafted
President Rodrigo Duterte said a “new deal” with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) faction, led by its founding chair Nur Misuari, must be crafted after he had appointed members of a transition government that would run a new autonomous Muslim region in Mindanao.
“Nur said he is willing to talk, and he has waited this long for me to make a decisive decision when he comes back,” Mr. Duterte told a national assembly of mayors at the Manila Hotel on Tuesday night.
Misuari was to leave on Wednesday for meetings with world Muslim leaders in the United Arab Emirates and Morocco.
He was given permission to travel abroad by the Sandiganbayan, where he was arraigned on Tuesday on graft and malversation charges in connection with “ghost textbooks” contracts when he was governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
He refused to enter a plea, so the court entered a not guilty plea for him.
On Monday, the President met with Misuari who asked that he be allowed to leave the country.
“I said: ‘Fine. You have done that several times. You can go,’” President said he told Misuari.
The President said he told Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Interior Secretary Eduardo Año, who were present during his meeting with Misuari, that “it’s time for us to craft a new deal for the MNLF of Misuari.”
Misuari “only wanted to talk,” he said. “(Misuari) doesn’t want to fight. And I told him, with more reason.”
The President did not say what the new agreement would include.
In ceremonies in Malacañang on Friday, the President swore into office Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chair Murad Ebrahim as interim chief minister of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA), which will act as the transition government of the new Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).
Murad on Tuesday formally took over the leadership of the region from ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman.
The MILF controls 41 seats in the 80-member BTA, which will govern the region until the first BARMM elections are held in 2022.
A faction of the MNLF led by Yusop Jikiri complained that it was given only five seats, not 10 according to some reports.
Despite his disappointment, Jikiri appealed to his supporters to respect the decision of the national government.
“For me, there is no problem. All we can do is watch how they would run the new autonomous region and if the autonomy [would be used to] really serve and address the situations of people on the ground,” he said.
Another MNLF leader, vice chair Firdausi Abbas, threatened to put up another faction to protest against what he called the MILF’s “virtual dictatorship.”
Abbas, a lawyer and the sultan of Lanao, questioned the ability of the appointed BTA members to govern the region. He urged Congress to call an election within six months so that the people could choose who they wanted to lead them in the new Muslim homeland.
No prominent area
Murad downplayed Abbas’ statements.
“If I remember right, he was not a member of MNLF until recently,” Murad said. “I don’t see how strong Mr. Abbas’ following on the ground is because we don’t see a prominent area where he is in command of any group.”
Murad explained that it was the government that decided whom to appoint to the interim government, which would allow the MILF to transition from a revolutionary group into mainstream governnance. —With reports from Jeoffrey Maitem and Julie Alipala
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.